Peleliu | 0200

It’s in the middle of the night when it really gets to you—missing home I mean. When you’re sitting in a foxhole and staring up at the pitch black sky something happens. I know it’s the same moon and stars that look down on my family in Virginia, but it sure as hell doesn’t seem like it. How can the same cosmos that shine on peaceful fields and that old run-down farmhouse shine on men riddled with bullets as their blood stains the ground beneath them? Boys. Not even men. How? I don’t know. So I try not to think about it.

“You know, the Japs could be watching us right now. In those leaves over there …”

Of all the guys I could get stuck with, it had to be Jackson. He’s only eighteen years old and jumpy as heck. I glance back at him and can only see the outline of his helmet in the shadows. “Shut up.”

He sighs nervously and I catch the sound of ammo rattling as he repositions himself. All is quiet again. I strain my eyes to see into the darkness. Nothing.

“I heard stories about them you know …” Jackson again. I get a good grip on my machine gun and keep my eyes fixed ahead. We’re in Peleliu. Anything can happen. “I heard stories of what they’ll do if they catch us.” He turns to me, hoping for some reassurance I guess.

I don’t give him any. “Yeah well, the stories are true.”

That shuts him up for a few more minutes, but not long enough for my liking. “I always wanted to be a Marine ever since I was a kid.”

You’re still a kid, I want to say. I’m still a kid. But I don’t. “Oh, so this is your dream come true.” I don’t mean to sound so sarcastic. But I’m tired. I’m tired of this war and seeing one friend after another blown to pieces.

“No.” He’s quiet for a long moment. “Didn’t think it would be like this.”

“Yeah Jackson, none of us did.”

“But we’re doing the right thing.” He sounds almost hopeful.

I grit my teeth, annoyed and bitter. “Great, you’re one of those idealists.”

“I’m a Marine,” Jackson says, his southern drawl hanging on a war-torn breeze. “I swore to defend the United States against all enemies. That’s what I’m here to do.”

“You’re here to kill.”

“And protect my country.”

I’m envious of him. I really am. I wish I had his optimistic nature. When you’ve seen your buddies killed, something just breaks inside you and suddenly you forget what you’re fighting for. At least I have.

“Someone has to do it, Williams," he says to me. "Someone has to protect and defend our families, our country, our way of life. So we’re doing the right thing. I'm proud to be here.”

He is right, but I don't have that patriotic zeal like I used to. It was so easy to feel when we were marching in sharp uniforms and basking in cheers.

It’s not so easy to feel on Peleliu island ...

1 comment

  1. Intriguing, as always. Also, procrastination is a great time to write; I feel ya. ;)